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GPO Spectra 8x32 impressions (1 Viewer)

eitanaltman

Well-known member
As I posted in the Binocular Bargains thread, a few days ago Amazon has a random sale of this model for only $179.

In theory, the only difference between the Spectra and Passion ED is the type of glass used in the objective (the Passion ED supposedly has better extra-low dispersion glass). Since the Passion ED is fairly well reviewed at ~$350-400ish, seemed like a no-brainer to try them out.

I've had them for a couple of days, long enough to do some direct comparisons with other binoculars I have, and also take them out in the field to use them as a primary field optic.

I have to say, the optics on these are VERY impressive. I would be happy with the optics at $400 retail price; for $180, it's a stupid good value.

The FOV feels a tiny bit wider than the 8x32 Ultravid, and a bit narrower than the Monarch HG 8x42, and pretty close to the UV 7x42, so the spec of just under 8 degrees FOV feels accurate.

The optics are nice and bright and neutral, although the MHG 8x42 is a notch brighter and with slightly purer color. The color balance in fact reminds me very much of the Conquest HD in that they are mostly neutral, with just a touch of greenish / yellowish cast in certain lighting. So it's not surprising to me that one of the founders (Mike Jensen) came from Zeiss. It also has that somewhat "muted" presentation that I see with some Zeiss models.... not that the colors don't look good, but it's not that luscious, vivid, super saturated look of the EDG or Leica UV. I've heard some say that this works better in harsh, bright lighting.

The biggest thing I notice optically though is that they are SHARP. Really, really sharp. Also like the Conquest HD, and probably somewhat related to the slight green cast, they have a very CRISP image, with very good microcontrast so small lines and fine textures look super sharp. And unlike some cheap binoculars, the sharpness holds up even at long distance. In terms of raw "apparent resolution" on axis they are outstanding, clearly superior to the $200 Diamondback HD 8x32 I also have and every bit the equal of my MHG 8x42, just a notch behind the UVHD 8x32.

The sweet spot "feels" large, but isn't quite as big as it looks if you start peeking off axis more critically. The MHG 8x42 for example has a larger area that is fully clear and sharp. And while much of the softening can be focused out towards the edges, again the MHG 8x42 is much better in this respect (not just less curvature, but less other garbage out on the edges that keeps the view from feeling crisp). But, again, the Spectra retails for less than half the price.

As others have noted, the GPO does have considerable pincushion distortion. Comparing again to the Conquest HD, the Zeiss has MASSIVE oculars which I assume contribute to the better overall correction of distortion and aberrations across the field. But within the central 50-60%, I think the GPO is very, very close to the Conquest HD or most other "sub alpha" Kamakura offerings optically. Very impressive for $400 retail.

Glare control is pretty good, I was fearing much worse but have been pleasantly surprised. I pushed it to some really nasty angles looking towards the low sun, and only got some peripheral crescents that never intruded into the center of the image (and often could be mitigated by adjusting eye position slightly). So not the best, but definitely more than good enough to not be a bother in the field.

Final note on the optics -- despite not having the "ED" label, the CA control is quite decent, approximately as good as the MHG 8x42. It's good enough to not be a bother in most "real world" field use, but it is there if you look for it. I would rate CA as very slight in the center, and moderate off axis, just like the MHG 8x42. So just like glare, more than good enough given the price point. It makes me wonder if the "HT glass vs ED glass" thing is just a fake-out so they could sell the Spectra at Costco for steep discounts without having to worry about price-matching hurting their main dealer network.

I don't need to get into the build quality and exterior finish, which is identical with the Passion ED (meaning top notch, especially for the price). The focus knob operates very smoothly, BUT there is a decent amount of slack / free play when changing directions. I believe others have noticed this too on the lower priced GPO models.

The eyecups / eye relief are an interesting thing. The extension of the eyecups is quite short, especially for the 16mm stated eye relief (and the eyecups are flat and seat very flush to the lens, so you aren't "losing" eye relief). But it does NOT feel like it's as long as the spec claims it to be. I do not wear glasses, but just in use it feels a bit more like the Ultravid 8x32 than a binocular with 16mm of usable eye relief. I've seen in other reviews where people with glasses can't see the full FOV on the 8x42 model, which supposedly has 18mm of eye relief, so I'm a bit skeptical of the specs here.

I find that eye position is pretty forgiving, but to see the full FOV it requires me to push my eyes a bit closer, but the position where I see the best sharpness / brightness is a couple mm further back. With the wide, flat eyecups, I find (as Lee noted in his review of the 8x32 Passion ED) that I end up resting them on the underside of the top of my eye socket, rather than jamming them into the eye socket. I can get really nice, easy, clean views this way, but I do get some darkening/vignetting that reduces the FOV slightly at the edges.

The overall ergonomics are a really nice fit for me, much more what I was hoping for from the Swaro 8x30 CL. They feel smooth and high quality in the hand, much like a more expensive Leica or Zeiss. The slicker, black inner rubber seems similar to the Conquest HD texture, except not as "tacky" and more like the silky smooth feel of Ultravid armor.

I weighed them at 520g naked, which is a bit higher than the GPO spec. That makes them a touch lighter than the 8x32 Ultravid, and they are just a bit longer, so these are VERY compact and light.

The neck strap is one of the thickest, widest, cushiest affairs I've ever seen for a stock strap. It is contoured to distribute more weight to the shoulders like the Leica Ultravid strap, but is even cushier. Again, way better than what you normally see at the price point, however it is comically over-sized for such a light, tiny binocular. No matter, as I almost never use stock straps. But clearly some thought has gone into the accessories and packaging.

In sum.....

PROS: plus-plus sharpness with a pretty generous sweet spot, superb crispness and microcontrast, wide FOV with a very nice color balance, overall optical quality very close to ~$1K "sub alpha" class optics; exterior finish and quality well beyond the price point; extremely small and light, just a really handy little binocular that you could take anywhere

CONS: not much given the price point, but there's a lot of pincushion and the true sweet spot isn't THAT large; color fringing is apparent off axis, color balance can look a bit greenish at times (may or may not be a con for you); short extension of eye cups / shortish eye relief; too much slack/slop in the focus knob when changing directions

NITPICKS: really wish the eyecups had a bit of taper / round-over vs the flat style, with a bit more extension (can't they all be as good as the 7x42 Ultravid HD?); I don't understand why they didn't have the rubber armor wrap around the front of the barrel (objective end)... the front rim at the objectives is exposed, anodized metal, and I often place my binoculars down standing up on the objective end.... the sound of the bare metal knocking the surface has given me a start several times, I wish the thin rubber wrapped around that front edge as it does with virtually every other binocular.

BOTTOM LINE: if the eye cups / eye relief work for you, the GPO's are an easy recommendation. At standard price, I don't know why you wouldn't get the Passion ED vs the Spectra (or an alternative like the Opticron Traveler ED) but if you can find these for sale for under $300, it's a steal given the optical quality and fit and finish. Unlike most $200-300 binocular (for example, that Vortex Dback HD 8x32), the GPO Spectra is good enough that I could use this as my full-time birding binocular and not feel like I was missing out on much at all.
 

dries1

Member
Thanks Eitan for the review, I wonder why some of these GPO models seem to have focus issues. That was a good price for them.

Andy W.
 

jgraider

Well-known member
I really enjoyed reading your review, and I appreciate the detailed information. I noticed the 8x42's can be had now for $289 on Amazon and are cheaper now than the 8x32. I'd really like to get a nice 8x42 that doesn't break the bank. Thanks for putting in the time to post this.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
For under $300 it's a no brainer, it's probably 90-95% of the Conquest HD optically, very similar "personality" visually, but with a wider FOV (talking the 8x42 here) and a slimmer / lighter / more compact body. The trade-off is more pincushion and a smaller sweet spot, less eye relief, and probably a notch less brightness, but if the eyecups / eye relief work for you I think you'd be hard pressed to see a huge different between these two on axis.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
The one thing I find a little annoying with some of these upstart companies is how loose they are with the spec sheet.

For example, GPO lists the 32mm models as weighing 500 grams, and the 42mm models as weighing a svelte 670g.

However I weighed the 32mm at 520g naked, same as what Lee reported.

And the 42mm model was weighed at 750g in the recent 8x42 Spectra review thread, and 26oz (~740g) in BruceH's Passion ED review thread from a few years ago.

Now, 520g for a 32mm and 740-750g for a 42mm is very much on the lighter end of the spectrum. But why fudge the numbers? Most binoculars I've weighted at home on my postal scale tend to be pretty close to on spec.
 

chill6x6

Well-known member
Nice report! :t:

How in the heck do you find these DEALS?! LOL! I find one every once in a while and I pride myself in being able to find them. I'm not in your league though! :king:
 

Gilmore Girl

Beth
Supporter
United States
Eitan,

Very nice...sounds like great value at an amazing price.

You're going 'hog wild' buying binoculars lately. This is good for the forum to have your reviews/impressions recorded here of these more affordable options. Before I bought the Nikon MHG 8x30 I was actually looking into these GPO models in 8x30 and 8x32 and I came close to ordering one. Looks like the Spectra would have been more than acceptable on overall resolution from your impressions, but based on your descriptions of the colors I would most likely prefer the colors in the Nikon.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Nice report! :t:

How in the heck do you find these DEALS?! LOL! I find one every once in a while and I pride myself in being able to find them. I'm not in your league though! :king:

I'm the type who never likes to pay full price, it's almost a compulsion! This one kind of fell in my lap, as I mentioned I'm going on a trip next week and wanted a small, inexpensive binocular that I could tote around with me when I wasn't doing "serious birding". I was on Amazon poking around, and randomly noticed the crazy sale price, so I just jumped!

As you know I snagged the Vortex Dback HD 8x32 for this purpose, but I always had wanted to try a GPO binocular since I just liked the look of them, and 8x32 is also very small and light.

Unfortunately I've got WAY too many binoculars right now and need to thin the herd big time. I know that's probably a foreign language to you, but I feel weird having so many redundant models in my possession! ;)
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Before I bought the Nikon MHG 8x30 I was actually looking into these GPO models in 8x30 and 8x32 and I came close to ordering one. Looks like the Spectra would have been more than acceptable on overall resolution from your impressions, but based on your descriptions of the colors I would most likely prefer the colors in the Nikon.

If the MHG 8x30 is anything close to the 8x42, you should be happy with where you ended up. The MHG is a clear step up optically IMO, it's brighter, cleaner, and more neutral, with a slightly wider FOV, a much larger "true" sweet spot and less distortion.

The GPO is very good for the price, but it's not as good as the "sub alpha" options overall.
 

Gilmore Girl

Beth
Supporter
United States
If the MHG 8x30 is anything close to the 8x42, you should be happy with where you ended up. The MHG is a clear step up optically IMO, it's brighter, cleaner, and more neutral, with a slightly wider FOV, a much larger "true" sweet spot and less distortion.

The GPO is very good for the price, but it's not as good as the "sub alpha" options overall.

Yes, it's been great so far; no complaints and I really enjoy the view.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
The focus knob operates very smoothly, BUT there is a decent amount of slack.

This is my problem with the GPO's.... I have seen a few of these and all of them have too much slack and depending on the situation, makes the focusing cumbersome when you want to focus quick.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
This is my problem with the GPO's.... I have seen a few of these and all of them have too much slack and depending on the situation, makes the focusing cumbersome when you want to focus quick.

Yeah, I'm finding it's not a major problem in "real world" use, EXCEPT there have been a few instances where I was trying to dial in perfect focus, and the slack made it difficult because the knob wouldn't "catch" in time when I changed directions. When this happened I actually had to rack the focus out farther and then creep it back in, versus being able to delicately wiggle it back and forth just a bit.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
Yeah, I'm finding it's not a major problem in "real world" use, EXCEPT there have been a few instances where I was trying to dial in perfect focus, and the slack made it difficult because the knob wouldn't "catch" in time when I changed directions. When this happened I actually had to rack the focus out farther and then creep it back in, versus being able to delicately wiggle it back and forth just a bit.

I can understand that..... Other than 'that' problem....I really did like birding with the GPO. Everything you stated was 'spot on'..... it will be interesting to see how they hold up thru the years, product or company....
 

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